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The Anecdotage of Glasgow
Bailie Hunkers of Glasgow, and the Bear


ONE day, while Bailie Hunkers, in his official costume, was picking his steps through one of the dirtiest parts of the town, known by the name of the Old Vennel, his progress, when near the head of it, was interrupted by a crowd collected to witness the clumsy gambols of a bear belonging to an Italian vagrant, well known in most of the borough towns in Scotland by the name of Anty Dolly—his real name, Antonio Dallori, being too long for the everyday use of our countrymen.

Anty had completely blocked up the way, and though the spectators, on seeing the bailie, ran in different directions to make way for him, yet, as Bruin and his master did not show the same readiness, Bailie Hunkers, who was on his road to a civic feast, became impatient, and, drawing his sword, thrust it with considerable violence into the rump of the bear, on which the animal, maddened by the pain, made a sudden jerk, snapped the rope with which it was held, and catching the bailie in its rude embrace, continued to dance round its accustomed circle, growling in its usual manner, while the terror and seeming danger of the bailie excited the greatest consternation among the bystanders.

The complete control, however, which Anty Dolly possessed over his travelling companion was such that, though he could not make it quit hold of the unfortunate magistrate, yet effectually prevented it from doing him any serious injury.

The people, seeing the bear did not devour their bailie, again collected round, and some of the more thoughtless of the youths actually ventured to laugh at the strange faces and grotesque attitudes which the dignitary was forced at times to assume.

While Bailie Hunkers was thus engaged in the dance with a partner so little to his mind, an officious baker came running forward, and much against the entreaties of the Italian, who knew the temper of the animal, began to probe it with one of his barrel staves. This had the effect of making the bear run backwards, when it unfortunately lost footing on the brink of one of those sinks of pollution with which the Vennel, above mentioned, at that time abounded, and both bear and bailie were plunged in the midst of the filth.

All was now alarm. The timid ran from the scene, afraid of being implicated in the murder of the bailie; while the Italian, who had hitherto been of some use in restraining the ferocity of the bear, afraid of the conséquences which might ensue from such treatment of one of the constituted authorities of such exalted civic dignity, betook himself to flight. The bakers, who were always active when any dangerous service was required, hastily collected with their peels and barrel staves, which they drove in between the legs and sides of the bear, and then pressing them outwards, by these means so far loosened the hold of Bruin, whose savage nature was by no means roused to that degree which might have been expected. The bailie, watching the favourable moment, jumped up and scrambled out of the puddle, in safety no doubt, but black and dripping all over, as if newly out of a dyer’s vat.

That a circumstance of this kind, occurring to a magistrate of Glasgow, would be passed over without investigation, was not to be thought of. Anty Dolly, by flying, was considered as having taken guilt to himself of no ordinary degree; a reward was therefore offered for his apprehension. A council was afterwards summoned to decide on the degree of punishment due to the audacity of the bear, which was secured and brought in front of the Tolbooth, strictly guarded by the town-officers and a party of the Blues, who chanced to be passing through Glasgow on their way to Lanark for the purpose of being disbanded.

After due deliberation, the poor bear, though innocent of shedding a drop of civic blood, was condemned to be shot, and its skin hung up in the Town Hall, as a warning to all bears not to interfere with bailies, particularly when going to dine and drink claret for the town’s gude. The above sentence was put in execution the same day, when a large cavalcade accompanied the four-footed culprit to the Butts, where, after receiving a great many shots, she expired, grumbling, no doubt, as bears are in the habit of doing, at the hardness of her fate.

A few nights after this singular execution, Antonio Dallori himself was taken on the Cathkin Hills, above Rutherglen, where he had been concealed from the day of his flight. . He was brought to Glasgow, in order to his being put to trial. That he would experience a greater degree of lenity than his companion, he did not expect. But lucky it was for him that in the course of his precognition it came out, that the day before his exhibition at the head of the Old Vennel, he had arrived from Linlithgow, where he had been showing off his bear for the amusement of those who had been celebrating the 29th of May, and also burning the Solenrn League and Covenant.

This circumstance showed that the Italian was at least on the safe side of politics; and the council considered that in such ticklish times they might be suspected, if they punished with too much severity, one who had been active in amusing the loyal subjects of His Most Gracious Majesty, on such an occasion, and in such a way. Antonio was therefore sentenced to do an hour’s penance in the jougs, with the skin of the bear about his shoulders. This seemed the hardest part of the matter, for the poor fellow, when he saw the rough coat of his dumb confederate, burst into tears, and continued sobbing, during the whole of his punishment, in such a manner as excited the compassion of all, so that not a missile of any description was attempted to be thrown at him. He was afterwards dismissed, with an injunction to betake himself to some employment attended with less danger to his neighbours.


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